James B. Steele, Justice of the Peace
Partially Printed and handwritten Document signed, Caroline County, Maryland, Sept. 18, 1856.

Single sheet, measuring 3 x 8”, 1 page, with docketing on verso. J.E. McCombs, Constable, ordered to summon “William Baynard, Negro, to be and appear…to answer unto Francis G. Smith admn. of Saml. G. Smith, Decd. In a plea of Debt…”

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Samuel G. Smith was one of the early property and Mill owners in rural Caroline County, on the eastern shore of Maryland, a very religious man who held the first “tent meetings” in the village that became known as Smithville. He died just a few months before this document was written.

But who was William Baynard? He was probably a free Black. Before the Civil War, Freed Blacks in Maryland could occasionally testify in cases involving white men, but they probably dreaded court appearances of any kind because if they were brought up on even the most modest criminal charge, the most severe punishment could provide for their being sold back into slavery.  Probably the most common appearance of freed Blacks were in cases such as this, for simple debt to whites, in which enslavement would not be a common punishment.